Friday the 13th

Get out that lucky rabbits foot and dust off your horseshoes.. because Friday the 13th is upon us my friends.

If I spill salt- you can bet I’m throwing some over my left shoulder, if there’s a ladder nearby- I see no reason to walk directly underneath it, and if a black cat runs in front of my truck before I go out- you can bet I’m staying home (well, that’s not entirely true but I won’t leave immediately)

Now before you start thinking I’m insane, I’ll have you know that I’ve broken a dozen mirrors in my life, and my mom’s back seems to be doing just fine considering the amount of cracks I’ve probably stepped on without even noticing.

The biggest superstition in western culture, is Friday the 13th. I take pride in the fact that I don’t see it as all that threatening.. maybe because usually I have no idea what day it is.

But if the thought of merely leaving the house this Friday the 13th has you spooked, rest assured you’re in good company. The Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute, based in Asheville, N.C., estimates that $800 million to $900 million US is lost every time the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, as people avoid doing business or flying.

HOLY COW.

The official names for fear of Friday the 13th are friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia. Sufferers can have symptoms as severe as panic attacks.

Stuart Vyse, professor of psychology at Connecticut College, said the superstition that associates Friday the 13th with bad luck is one of the most widespread in Western culture.

An article on the National Geographic website reports that between 17 million and 21 million people in the U.S. suffer from some degree of fear related to the day.

Despite the superstitions, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said there are no statistics showing an increased risk to drivers. In fact, it might be just the opposite.

No one’s exactly sure of the roots of the calendar-based fear, but there are several popular theories.

ORIGINS:

Some Christians tie together the belief that Judas — who would eventually betray Christ — was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, and Christ was supposedly crucified on a Friday. Other theologians have also theorized that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.

Jumping ahead to the 14th century, some believe the fear originated when King Philip IV of France had the Knights Templar arrested on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307. Looking to seize their vast wealth, Philip ordered the mass arrest of members of the Christian military order that had been active in the Crusades. Confessions for a variety of crimes, including heresy, were obtained from them with the help of torture.

This Templar theory has recently gained traction in pop culture as a result of references to it made in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.

The number 13 is also considered unlucky in Norse mythology, with the mischievous god Loki being the uninvited 13th guest at a banquet of the gods. Loki would eventually trick the blind god Hoder into killing Balder, the god of joy and gladness, plunging the Earth into mourning and darkness.

Ancient Romans weren’t huge fans of 13 either. They believed that witches gathered in groups of 12, and a 13th person joining them would be the devil.

But while there are references throughout history to both Friday and the number 13 being unlucky, there’s evidence that the combination of the two is a creation of the 20th century. An 1898 edition of E. Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, has entries for both the number and the day, noting both as unlucky but makes no mention of the combination of the two.

A 1907 novel by businessman Thomas Lawson, and simply titled Friday, the Thirteenth, tells the story of a stock broker trying to manipulate the market on Friday the 13th. It was fairly popular at the time it was published and may have helped to cement the idea of the day being unlucky.

Legend has it:

If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.

Never change your bed on Friday; it will bring bad dreams. If you cut your nails on Friday, you cut them for sorrow. Don’t start a trip on Friday or you will encounter misfortune. Ships that set sail on a Friday will have bad luck, as in the tale of H.M.S. Friday. One hundred years ago, the British government sought to quell the longstanding superstition among seamen that setting sail on Fridays was unlucky. A special ship was commissioned and given the name “H.M.S. Friday.” They laid her keel on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, selected her crew on a Friday, and hired a man named Jim Friday to be her captain. To top it off, H.M.S. Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday — and was never seen or heard from again.

Do you have any superstitions? And do you think buying into one superstition will cause you to buy into larger ones that could be dangerous?

I say no.

-Katy

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